When I first think of globally connected classrooms, I immediately think of various systems I’ve blogged on before like Skype Classroom, Quad-blogging or Google’s Connected Classrooms. But I thought I’d bring you a connections story directly from New Zealand.
For me, the important point around global student discussion or in fact, any situation that introduces new perspectives to a classroom topic, is that of depth and what I like to call, messy learning. You may have seen this common graphic about success (left). Well, I like to think the same about learning. It is detrimental to education when anything or any person encourages the idea that learning is linear. The idea that at the beginning of learning, you don’t know something and then after following a particular study path, you complete your learning by obtaining said knowledge. True deep learning is a social exercise. Multiple perspectives are always required if a true understanding is to be achieved. Perspective that won’t necessarily become apparent unless you involve other people in the journey.
The teachers who understand the importance of connecting students and classrooms to the world for new perspectives, still have at least three driving questions:
- How young can we start this process?;
- How best can we showcase positive and relevant online behaviour and;
- If we start young, how do we ensure safety?
This is where I would like to introduce you to a kiwi called Stephen Baker. For two years, Stephen has run a hugely successful classroom Twitter chat every week on Wednesday afternoons. When I say successful, I really mean it. Over 230 elementary classroom accounts have been involved, and remember, New Zealand only has a population of 4 million! The chat can be found on Twitter under the hashtag: #KidsEdChatNZ and has it own account and also a website.
Every week, Stephen and his co-organisers, Marnel van der Spuy and John Willoughby, post the questions for the classes to answer on Wednesday, between 2 and 3 pm. The classroom accounts are added to a Twitter list which they then subscribe to so as to isolate the discussion from the rest of Twitter. Students respond to each other’s reflections and thoughts on topical issues.